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Local News

Joliet Council to vote on Harbor Freight tax breaks next week

A logo sign outside of a Harbor Freight Tools retail store in Council Bluffs, Iowa, can be seen July 1, 2018.
A logo sign outside of a Harbor Freight Tools retail store in Council Bluffs, Iowa, can be seen July 1, 2018.

The Joliet City Council next week is slated to vote on property tax incentives for a Harbor Freight Tools distribution center.

The tool retailer plans to build a 1.6 million-square-foot distribution center at CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Joliet. The retailer has nearly 1,000 stores, including one in Crest Hill.

The council’s Economic Development Committee on Tuesday voted, 3-0, to recommend approval of the incentive package to the full council. The item is expected to be on the council agenda for Tuesday.

Committee Chairman Larry Hug described the incentives as “nothing out of the ordinary” and said they matched up with other property tax abatements granted for industrial development. Harbor Freight would get property taxes abated by 50% over five years. The incentives would be worth $536,200 in abated city taxes. Once the abatement ends, Harbor Freight is expected to pay nearly $209,000 a year in city taxes.

“It will easily be one of the top five property tax generating properties in Joliet, and it could be No. 1,” Derek Conley, the city’s economic development specialist told the committee.

The Harbor Freight distribution center “would actually be the largest building in Will County to the best of our knowledge,” Conley said.

The project has been scaled down from a year ago, when Harbor Tools was talking about building a 2.1 million-square-foot distribution center. Harbor Freight expects to employ 274 workers by the fourth year of operation, with the average full-time salary at $42,106. The company provides health insurance and retirement benefits. The distribution center would be west of Route 53 and north of Millsdale Road.

The project did face resistance from a resident of the area, Gregory Smith, who asked that the council not vote on the tax abatements until CenterPoint Properties provides some guarantees in writing to ease the impact on his house and a few others in the shadow of the industrial development. Smith said the homeowners along Schweitzer Road deal with several issues, including noise through the night from a nearby railroad crossing and problems from trucks backing onto residential property when trying to back away from trains that block the tracks.

“It’s a quality of life issue for us,” Smith said. “It’s been miserable since day one.”

Hug asked staff to research whether CenterPoint Properties was under an obligation to make an offer to buy the residents’ homes when CenterPoint Intermodal Park was developed. A report is expected to be made before the council votes Tuesday.

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